Estate planning isn’t usually a top priority for college students. In fact, for most incoming freshmen (and returning sophomores, juniors, and seniors…) estate planning doesn’t even crack the top 10 priorities on their list. However, there are certain legal documents that everyone over the age of majority really should have in place, and the implications of not having these documents in place can be quite dire. Below we will outline 3 legal documents that every college student needs.
It’s important to remember that your college student isn’t just embarking on an academic journey; they are heading out into the world to explore their independence. Once they reach the age of majority—18 in most states, and 19 in Alabama—you will lose many of the parental rights you once had. Without certain legal documents in place, you will not have access to their medical records, or be able to make medical or financial decisions on their behalf.
To protect your college-aged child, these are the 3 legal documents that every college student needs.
A healthcare proxy—also known as a medical power of attorney or advanced healthcare directive—is a legal document that allows a named agent to make medical decisions on your child’s behalf, should they become incapacitated. For college students who are living away from home, this document is essential in ensuring that someone they trust will be responsible for making medical decisions on their behalf, should they become unable to make their own decisions. The healthcare proxy should clearly outline the appointed agent’s authority to make medical decisions, and the types of medical treatments the student is willing to accept or refuse.
Having a healthcare proxy can provide peace of mind to both the college student and their family. The student can trust that they will receive medical care along their own guidelines, while the parent can rest assured that they—or another trusted loved one—will be able to make important decisions on their child’s behalf, should tragedy strike.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney grants an authorized third party the authority to manage your student’s financial affairs, and otherwise make financial decisions on their behalf. This document becomes crucial if the college student faces a medical emergency and is unable to pay bills or conduct legal transactions due to incapacitation.
Whether it’s managing bank accounts, paying bills, or handling rental agreements, a durable power of attorney ensures that someone capable and reliable will oversee these important matters. Most students choose a parent, guardian, or close family member to hold this responsibility.
Due to HIPAA regulations, if your child is over the age of majority, you will not be able to access their medical records unless they proactively signed a HIPAA authorization. A blanket HIPAA authorization can be included as part of the healthcare proxy, or signed as its own independent document.
College students may feel invincible in their youth, but unforeseen circumstances can occur at any age. Estate planning is a responsible step that every adult should take to protect themselves and their assets, even if you don’t have much in the way of cash, real estate, or property. By drafting these three essential legal documents—a healthcare proxy, a durable power of attorney, and a HIPAA authorization—college students can ensure their wishes are respected, their medical care is managed appropriately, and their financial affairs will be taken care of, even if they are not able to do so themselves.
It’s crucial to consult with a qualified estate planning attorney to ensure that the right documents are in place, and that they are legally sound and tailored to your student’s unique needs. With these important documents in place, college students can focus on their, ahem, studies…with added confidence and security.
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